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Psychol Rev. 2006 Apr;113(2):234-72.

Becoming syntactic.

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Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.


Psycholinguistic research has shown that the influence of abstract syntactic knowledge on performance is shaped by particular sentences that have been experienced. To explore this idea, the authors applied a connectionist model of sentence production to the development and use of abstract syntax. The model makes use of (a) error-based learning to acquire and adapt sequencing mechanisms and (b) meaning-form mappings to derive syntactic representations. The model is able to account for most of what is known about structural priming in adult speakers, as well as key findings in preferential looking and elicited production studies of language acquisition. The model suggests how abstract knowledge and concrete experience are balanced in the development and use of syntax.

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